Golf Claps & Silent Treatment: Presidents Cup

All together now: USA! USA! USA!

Feels pretty good once every two years, doesn’t it? Put another way, it’s a good thing America has the Presidents Cup to stir up some pride in between Ryder Cup whippings.

Tiger Woods at 2011 Presidents Cup.

Tiger Woods celebrated in style.

The United States once again took the International team to the woodshed, winning the 2011 Presidents Cup by a more-dominating-than-it-sounds 19-15 margin. And this was supposed to be the year the Internationals -- an Aussie-heavy squad playing on home turf -- broke a five-match victory drought.

Instead, the Americans succeeded where they so often fail against Europe’s Ryder Cuppers: on the greens. The U.S. squad made miles of twisting putts across Royal Melbourne’s diabolical, wind-whipped surfaces, continually snuffing any spark of a comeback.

With Uncle Sam’s finest pushing their all-time record to 7-1-1 against the Internationals, a question lingers: Why don’t the Americans play like this in the Ryder Cup? The Europeans have claimed four of the past five and six of eight since 1995.

Who knows? And for now, who cares? America’s golf community should enjoy the moment.

After all, the next Ryder Cup is just 10 months away.

The Presidents Cup produced a bevy of heroes and goats. We singled out these for polite applause and tacit disapproval:

Golf Claps

Royal Melbourne: Talk about living up to the hype. The Alister MacKenzie-designed masterpiece delivered compelling theater each day, the constantly changing conditions only highlighting the layout’s brilliance. And somehow, the setup crew kept things fair despite green speeds in excess of 14 (!) on the Stimpmeter.

Jim Furyk: Coming off his worst season since his rookie year, Furyk didn’t figure to make a big impact. Surprise! By going 5-0, Furyk paced the Americans and became the first player over 40 to win all his Presidents Cup matches.

Fred Couples’ captain’s picks: To the chagrin of many, Freddie followed rule No. 1 in making his captain’s picks: Never, ever pass up Tiger Woods. While Woods’ 2-3 record was nothing special, he played well in team-match defeats and even better in singles. For good measure, Woods clinched the Cup with a 4-and-3 beatdown of Aaron Baddeley on Sunday. Couples’ other choice, Bill Haas, was solid in splitting his five matches.

Ryder Cup

The Ryder Cup: Still golf's best.

While Woods’ and Haas’s combined 4 ½ - 4 ½ record may seem pedestrian, it compared quite favorably with the International captain’s picks. Which leads us to…

Silent Treatment

Greg Norman’s wild-card selections: Baddeley was bad, posting a 1 ½ - 3 ½ record. Robert Allenby was worse, putting up a big, fat doughnut against four defeats. That’s a combined score of 1 ½ - 7 ½, making Norman’s pre-Cup criticism of Couples ring rather hollow.

The Presidents Cup’s standing alongside the Ryder Cup: Sure, it’s fun to win. But until these matches become more competitive, the Ryder Cup will remain golf’s biggest biennial affair. By a longshot.

Spy on Golf: When Pros Attack

October 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Golf Courses, Golf News, Pro Insider, Spy Blog 

For a so-called gentleman’s game, golf sure can turn acrimonious.

The latest examples include the revelation of a years-long, alpha-male spat between Greg Norman and Tiger Woods, and Rory McIlroy’s stunning split with agent Chubby Chandler. While no nasty words have been exchanged (publicly, at least) in the latter instance, it’s surely not an amicable parting.

Greg Norman

Greg Norman

Who needs reality TV when golf gives us this kind of drama?

All that, plus word on a jaw-dropping new course on the Chinese coast and an adult beverage bearing Arnold Palmer’s name and mug, in our weekly roundup of entertaining golf news.

Shark vs. Tiger

We were thinking Norman’s most recent comments about Tiger’s unworthiness as a Presidents Cup captain’s selection might have been spurred by Woods breaking the course record – shared by Norman – at the Medalist Club in Hobe Sound, Fla.

BTW, Norman designed the course, too. Double-ouch.

Turns out the animosity between the two goes back more than a few weeks, according to this article by Robert Lusetich. Apparently, sharing Butch Harmon’s time when both were under his tutelage was more than these supposed grown-ups could handle.

Norman tried to defuse the rancor in an email to Lusetich. “I have said this before and I will say it again, I hope Tiger does turn his game around,” Norman wrote. “It would be great for golf.

“I have said all I need to say about this.”

Let’s hope not. We’re kind of enjoying this little spat.

Big Mac attack

Another off-course bombshell dropped Friday morning, when news of McIlroy’s defection to Horizon Sports Management hit the wires. The 22-year-old U.S. Open champion spent his formative years with Chandler’s International Sports Management group, whose clients won four of five majors starting with the 2010 Open Championship.

Chandler has been praised for his delicate handling of McIlroy’s career since the Northern Ireland phenom turned pro at age 18. No definitive answer yet as to why McIlroy jumped ship to Horizon, a relatively new firm based in Dublin whose stable includes Ernie Els and Graeme McDowell.

Will this episode become another black eye for the likeable McIlroy, following his dismissive remarks about links golf and a Twitter spat with a TV announcer over McIlroy’s caddie?

Or is it just another sign that McIlroy has an inner ruthlessness that belies his outward charm? Image be damned, that could bode well for his future.

Chinese fireworks from Coore & Crenshaw

We don’t have much to say about the new Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw course in Shanquin Bay, China, except that it looks spectacular. This being a Coore-Crenshaw design and seaside, to boot, it should draw plentiful attention from architecture aficionados.

Darius Oliver has a detailed review and terrific pics at Planet Golf.

Arnold Palmer Hard Malt beverageSorry Arnie, we’ll stick with beer

Not sure about the sales prospects for the new Arnold Palmer Hard Malt beverage – half ice tea, half lemonade, and 5 percent alcohol – but I do know one golfer who won’t be trying it.

That would be me. If Arnie ever slaps his name on a hoppy pale ale or toasty imperial stout, count me in.

Golf Claps & Silent Treatment: McGladrey Classic

October 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Entertaining News, Golf News, Pro Insider, Spy Blog 

Ben Crane is a funny guy, but he was all business Sunday at the McGladrey Classic.

Ben Crane

Ben Crane

Perhaps best known for his series of quirky YouTube videos and his role in the laughably bad “Golf Boys” routine, Crane ran down Webb Simpson with a final-round 63, then won on the second playoff hole.

All this while his wife was in Dallas prepping for the birth of the couples’ third child (scheduled to arrive Monday via C-section). For good measure, Crane nearly withdrew from the McGladrey Thursday with an aching hip.

Seriously.

As for Simpson, it wasn’t all bad. He overtook Luke Donald for the PGA Tour money lead with one event remaining. The pair will slug it out for the title this week at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in Orlando.

Crane, understandably, is skipping the event. Too bad – we were hoping for a duet with Mickey Mouse.

This week’s applause meter goes to 11 -- 12 if you count the 0:

Golf Claps

Bud Cauley: The curly-locked Cauley, a 21-year-old from Alabama, finished T15 to earn $64,000, plenty to put him inside the top 125 on the money list. That gives Cauley PGA Tour exempt status for 2012 – in other words, no Q-School for Bud.

He’s just the sixth player ever to take the express route to the Tour; the others included Tiger Woods.

Tom Lewis: Speaking of Woods, he was one-upped this weekend by Lewis, an English phenom who won in his third professional start. Actually, Lewis two-upped Tiger, who took his sweet time before winning on the fifth try.

Tom Lewis, winner of the Portugal Masters

Tom Lewis

Lewis blew past a bevy of veterans with a final-round 65 at the Portugal Masters. You may have watched the 20-year old in July during the Open Championship, where his Thursday 65 was the lowest round by an amateur in the event’s history.

Silent Treatment

Greg Norman: Maybe the Shark should put a gag order on himself. Then again, his mouth may have already done its damage.

Clearly, Norman believes Woods is washed up. How else to explain his weekend comments stating that Keegan Bradley should’ve gotten the Presidents Cup pick that U.S. captain Fred Couples spent on Tiger.

“I can understand the name of a Tiger Woods and his history of what he’s done on the golf course,” Norman said. “But I pick the guys who I think are ready to get in there and play and have performed to the highest levels leading up to it.”

Psst, Greg: You’re coaching the other team!

It’s not that we disagree with Norman. On the contrary, we’re with him 100 percent. But we’re not coaching against Tiger!

Neither is Couples, who takes a step closer to looking like a genius every time Norman opens his yap.

Spy on Golf: A Game of Inches

September 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Entertaining News, Golf News, Pro Insider, Spy Blog 

Jack says Tiger can still do it. Johnny doesn’t think it will happen. The Shark is certain it won’t.

We say it doesn’t matter what any of them say.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

The “it” in question, of course, is the breaking of Nicklaus’ record for professional major victories, 18. As the golf world knows, Woods is stuck on 14, his last coming in the 2008 U.S. Open. As the entire world knows, Tiger hasn’t been the same since a 2009 fender-bender with a fire hydrant extinguished his invincibility.

Nicklaus, who must get the Tiger question on an hourly basis, remains diplomatic. Even at age 35, Woods still stands a great chance to win 19-plus majors “if he gets the five inches between his ears squared out.”

(That grinding sound you hear? That’s us resisting the urge to go juvenile on Jack’s “five inches” setup.)

Johnny Miller made a much more specific, if baffling, prediction. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win three, four more majors,” Miller said. “I don’t see him winning a fifth one, the big one.”

We’ll go out on a limb and pronounce that if Tiger gets to 18 majors, 19 will be a formality.

As for Greg Norman, he says Tiger is toast. Woods’ legendary focus is lost, Norman notes, and “the more he shuts people off, the worse it gets.”

The truly noteworthy part of Norman’s chat with GOLF Magazine, though, regarded Woods’ personal missteps. Apparently, Norman once counseled Bill Clinton himself on matters of the, um, heart.

“When he came to my house, (Clinton) wanted to talk to me guy to guy,” Norman said. “We all put our underpants on the same way, one leg at a time.”

Yeah, but some of us take them off a little faster.

Sorry, that one we couldn’t resist.

Our takes on other hot golf topics:

  • Tour signs new television deal, touts parity: Tiger, schmiger. With no dominant player, golf’s more interesting, like the NFL or NBA. At least, that’s how The GolfBlogger sees it.
  • Lexi Thompson headed for LPGA: The 16-year-old tour winner will soon be welcomed to the Show, full-time. Kids these days...
  • 54-year-old wins U.S. Mid-Am: Proving that it’s not just a game for youngsters, Randal Lewis, 54, became the oldest winner of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. Then he went home and yelled at Lexi Thompson to get off his lawn.

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